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Dreamliner passengers enjoy humidity, whispering engines

Kiyoko Furusho kept her moisturiser in her bag while flying on the first commercial Boeing 787 service.

"My skin usually gets very dry when flying and I have to put it on every hour or two," said the 56-year-old housewife, who travels to New York every year. "But here the air is much more humid."

 

All Nippon Airways, which flew the 787 to Hong Kong yesterday, and Boeing have touted the onboard environment, wider cabin and bigger windows as key advantages for passengers from the fuel-efficient plane. A fuselage made of high-strength carbon-fiber technology also supports a higher level of cabin pressure, reducing the discomfort travellers can experience on takeoff and landing.

"My ears don't pop on this plane," said Tomoko Monjugawa, a 51-year old Tokyo office worker. "It's very comfortable and it feels good on my skin as well."

Flight NH7871 touched down in Hong Kong about 4pm local time after a more than three-hour flight from Tokyo's Narita airport. There were 240 passengers onboard, including about 90 journalists, said ANA spokesman Ryosei Nomura. The Tokyo-based carrier held a lottery among frequent flyers for the chance to buy tickets on the 264-seat aircraft and sold some in charity auctions.

Bigger cabins, windows

The cabin of the 787 is 75 centimetres wider than a Boeing 767 and it has bigger luggage compartments and energy-saving light-emitting diode lights, according to ANA. The plane also has windows as much as 47 centimetres high and 28 centimetres wide as the composite materials are able to support larger openings than traditional airframes.

Still, delays caused by the new materials contributed to ANA receiving its first aircraft from Boeing more than three years late. The Chicago-based planemaker was also held up by a greater reliance on subcontractors.

The company is now boosting production to 2.5 jets a month and that will increase to 10 a month by the end of 2013, chief executive officer Jim McNerney said on a conference call yesterday, after Boeing announced a better-than-expected 31 per cent jump in third-quarter net income.

Engine noises

Onboard the Rolls-Royce Holdings-powered 787, Monjugawa said it was quieter than on a double-deck Airbus SAS A380. The superjumbo first entered service about four years ago.

"The difference in sound between the 787 and the A380 is very noticeable on take-off," she said. "The A380 roars, while the 787's engines are just whispering."

ANA has ordered 55 Dreamliners, making it the biggest airline customer. So far, it has received two and another nine will arrive before the end of March, President Shinichiro Ito told reporters before takeoff. It will have 20 by the end of March 2013.

The carrier plans to introduce the plane on regular scheduled services on November 1, beginning with flights from Tokyo's Haneda airport to Okayama and Hiroshima. Routes to China will commence in December, followed by services to Frankfurt in January.

ANA will fit its long-haul 787s with 158 seats. The one that flew to Hong Kong had 252 seats in economy class and 12 in business. Furusho, who usually flies business class on her New York trips, said the premium seats on the short-haul configured 787 looked more cramped than on larger planes.

"The business-class seats for New York are very deluxe," she said. "I'd probably still opt to fly on bigger planes long- haul."

Fuel savings

The airline expects the 787 to generate fuel savings of as much as 10 billion yen ($US132 million) a year. The plane is 20 per cent more fuel efficient than comparably sized jets because of the composite materials used in the fuselage and an all-electric system that doesn't divert air from the engines for power, according to Boeing.

The planemaker had 821 Dreamliner orders at the end of last month from customers including British Airways, Japan Airlines and Delta Air Lines. The tally included 15 from China Eastern Airlines Corp, which have now been swapped for 737s, partly because of delays.

For Yohei Konishi, a 35-year-old systems engineer who said he flies most weeks, the Dreamliner is worth the wait.

"It's really comfortable and my ears don't hurt," he said during the flight. "It would be great if I could do all my business trips on 787s."

Bloomberg

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